The largest importer of golden papayas in North America expects a shortage from Brazil to last through July, following unprecedented drought conditions in the state of Espirito Santo.
In a release, HLB Specialties said the El Niño weather event over previous months led to extraordinary heat, drying up reservoirs.
HLB sources from four different Brazilian papaya growers, including Caliman Agricola, the world’s largest Golden papaya producer.
All four suppliers are reporting a drastic drop in production that was caused by three main factors: high heat that killed the blooms, lack of rain, and the start of the winter.
The company said the summer was so hot that it killed many of the blooms that would have developed into fruit, and the fruits that survived developed to a smaller size as they ripened earlier.
HLB is currently seeing over 50% of the crop yielding sizes 10 and 12, while under normal circumstances the commercial Golden Papaya production concentrates in sizes 8, 9, and 10.
Adding to the heat was also the lack of water. The region receives an average of 900-1200mm of rain per year and in 2015 they saw less than 600mm.
The missing rain not only affected the crops, but also failed to fill the irrigation reservoirs that Caliman depends on to supplement missing rainfall.
“The drought we are seeing in the papaya growing region is historically unprecedented and devastating,” explains Melissa Hartmann de Barros, HLB Specialties’ director of communications.
“The locals in the area say the last time they saw such conditions was back in the 1950s.”
Brazil’s internal papaya prices have also soared drastically, in some places reaching three times the original price.
Winter in Brazil is starting in June, so temperatures are dropping already, which will help with the sizing of the fruit. Unfortunately, it does not rain much in winter.
However, as weather patterns have been completely unpredictable in the last few years, HLB Specialties is cautious when giving a forecast.
“We could see the shortage lasting several more months, but hopefully things will improve by July,” adds Hartmann de Barros.
She notes that “our silver lining is that the papaya production recovers very quickly. It is a fast crop and trees can resume bearing fruits within 4 months of experiencing trauma, which this weather definitely is.”